Police are appealing for information on where stolen cigarettes are being sold after a series of armed robberies across parts of South Hampshire.
Officers say on each occasion, three or four people with their faces covered were spotted stealing cash and cigarettes from stores in the area.
Premises in Southampton, Romsey, North Baddesley, Eastleigh and Totton have all been targeted.
Police have told us crimes generally happen at opening times or early evening and often stolen vehicles are used.
Detective Inspector Colin White said:
“We believe the cigarettes being taken are the main objective of this group to sell on and make quick money. That would not be happening if those receiving it were not complicit in handling these stolen items and selling them on themselves. We are concerned that a few local shops are accepting this stolen stock and selling it on for own personal gain whilst putting other convenience store owners at risk of robbery because of it.
“We also want to ask the public if anyone has noticed any convenience stores selling cigarettes at an usual price or you have noticed they have a large amount of one particular brand and not another. We need to know where the products are going.
“Lastly, I want to say that although these robberies are committed against shops, we know that they have a serious impact on members of our community going about their daily work.
“We want to know who is responsible for these crimes.”
Anyone with any information about where these cigarettes are going or who might be involved is asked to call 101 and quote Operation Assessment.